Friday, November 27, 2015

Moms' and Kids' Caving Trip

To celebrate #optoutside, here's a post about our pre-Thanksgiving day outside. My friend Jenny had asked about going to a nearby cave with the kids. I thought it was a great idea, so I contacted the Forest Service and got a permit and key to go to the cave. (It's only open in the winter months to protect a summer maternity colony of bats.) The kids were stoked to go with their friends. Desert Boy helped me unlock the gate.

Here's the view of the portal into the magical underground. We were all prepared with helmets, lights, kneepads, and gloves. And a guard dog.

The entrance of the cave is kind of dusty, so we were eager to get to the less dusty section. But we had to stop and take a look at the long spiderweb dangling from the amberat-encrusted flowstone.

Some of the cave passageways are such a neat shape, it's one of the things I like best about this cave. Oh yeah, and that there are lots of walking sections!

That's not to say there aren't plenty of holes. Here's Jenny going down one.

Everyone was patient and let me take a few long exposures, lighting up the more distant parts of the passageway.

Then it was on to scrambling down more holes.

Finally we reached the end of the cave. The kids sat still for a moment.

They all enjoyed signing the cave register.

One more shot of the kids. The walls of the cave are really colorful, with lots of oranges and reds.

Then it was time to head back out. It was a really fun time, and such a nice way to get some exercise even though it is so cold right now. The cave stays a constant 50 degrees or so, so it's a really pleasant environment.
Hope you're getting a chance to get outside!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Finding Mountain Lion Tracks

 One weekend we decided to go for a family hike. The kids were not thrilled, but my husband and I were so glad to get out of the house. It was chilly, but we really haven't had much snow, so we could go on trails that were higher up in elevation. Desert Boy and I were ahead, and when we left the meadow and entered the forest, we noticed some big tracks in the snow. There are only two animals that will make tracks that big around here and in that shape--big dogs and mountain lions. These tracks were all by themselves (not with a human), and there weren't any claw marks (dogs always have claw marks, cats sometimes do, but usually they are retracted), so I was pretty comfortable saying these were mountain lion tracks.

Desert Boy ran back to tell dad and Desert Girl.

We continued hiking, finding the mountain lion had also hiked on the trail. We stopped to check out the new trail signs. Hopefully there will soon be a map/kiosk at the trailhead so folks will know where these trails go.

The tracks continued along the trail, and we tried to guess when the mountain lion had walked where we were now walking.

Then we got distracted by ice on the creek. We didn't let the kids play there long, knowing the outcome would be wet, cold feet.

Eventually the mountain lion veered away and we got back to the trailhead. We still had some extra energy, so it was time to walk on the walls. And then jump across the gaps. To my surprise, Desert Boy decided to jump across a rather large gap. It had intimidated me a little, and he was much shorter. I didn't say anything, I just let him give it a try.

And he made it! With the jump and the mountain lion tracks, a pleasant hike turned into a memorable one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our First Sledding Trip of the 2015/16 Winter

 On Veteran's Day we went sledding. We thought that there would be plenty of snow at 7500 feet. Nope, not really!

We moved to a shadier part of Upper Lehman Campground and found a little more snow.

The afternoon light was beautiful, and we were happy to be with friends.

Desert Girl was sporting some shades, even if she couldn't quite stay on the sledding track.

Everyone who was there took a turn, even all the adults! Yippee.

 I love the expressions of fun times outdoors.

Finally it was time to go. Bummer. But we're crossing our fingers for more snow and sledding opportunities this winter, maybe with more snow and on steeper slopes.

Desert Girl figured out a way to make it snow--at least on herself!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

An Early Winter Visit to Pruess Lake

 My friend Jenny and I had the same idea one Saturday morning: We need to get the kids out of the house! So we made plans to meet at Pruess Lake after lunch. We brought some digging equipment and a spirit of adventure.

Our dog Henry was so happy to go too.

The water level is always low this time of year, which exposes thousands of California floaters (Anodata califoriensis), a large mussel found in several states in the western U.S. They rely on fish to help distribute their glochidia (part of their life cycle).

Pruess Lake is historically a lake, named for cartographer Charles Preuss (not that the vowels got switched somewhere along the way); Preuss accompanied Fremont in his explorations and made many important early maps. In the late 1800s, a land development company wanted to make the desert green so came up with a plan to dam the lake to enlarge it. The first dam blew out in a few years, but a second one was constructed, using bricks made in a kiln up Snake Creek. That dam still stands today, and a tunnel through the rock allows water to leave the reservoir for fields in Garrison, Utah. However, the reservoir never got as large as the developers wanted because the surrounding rock is limestone, which is rather porous. The miles and miles of ditches they built were never filled with water, but you can still see them today (one spot is near the stateline on NV Hwy 487/UT Hwy 21 and another is south of Garrison next to some of the road cuts). Thus it was another water speculation that was ill-thought out and poorly researched and did not work. (Read more about it in my book.)

A small outlet stream leads from the lake to the tunnel, and Desert Boy wanted to see if he could jump over it.

Success! (Well, mostly, just one muddy foot.)

We picked up some broken glass bottles and sharp aluminum cans from the exposed mudflats and then started on our hike.

The kids were delighted to be outside. We found all sorts of interesting things to look at.

We lucked out with a nearly windless day, making for great reflections in the lake.

Although the lake water was too cold for humans, the dogs were willing to venture in.

One of the exciting finds was a catfish head. Two species of catfish live in the lake, along with Utah chub, carp, Sacramento perch, and one other species that is escaping me at the moment.

Did I mention the kids were having a good time? (The moms, too!)

The amount of California floaters in some areas was amazing. When the mussel dies, the gases cause it to float, thus the shells are distributed along the shorelines.

Eventually the kids tired of walking, so we turned around and headed back. We got in nearly a two-mile beach walk. They still had energy, but they wanted to channel it in a different way.

It was sandcastle building time!

Finally, with turrets, a moat, and a few other accessories, they declared it done (aka the moms said it was time to go).  What a great afternoon!
p.s. With the recent cold weather, quite a bit of the lake is now frozen over. Maybe it will get cold enough this winter we can go ice skating on it!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Fall Colors

I usually don't think of November as a time for fall colors, but they've been really beautiful this year. Some of the trees are just brown and blah, but others are making up for it.

The apricots in the orchard and the silver poplars by the Lehman Caves Visitor Center are gorgeous.

 Down on the ranch we even found a crabapple with some bright red leaves.

Willows and rabbitbrush framed the mountains as storm clouds approached.

This morning I noticed frosty leaves as I walked with the kids to school. I got out my macro lens and played around.

The ice crystals took so many forms!

We'll be raking leaves and jumping into them this weekend!
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